Focus: Sustainable production

Building on the Foundations

Oct. 15, 2021

As Colombia's brand image as a global hub improves rapidly, the country is taking eco-friendly practices more seriously.

Colombia has been successful in implementing a truly comprehensive rebranding effort in recent years. In just under a decade, Colombia's international image has evolved from a troubled country engaged in guerrilla warfare and drug trafficking to a regional business hub to which many companies that wish to have a presence in Latin America flock.

Colombia even joined the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 2020—an exclusive fraternity launched in 1961 which gathers nations that respect democracy and the free market economy together to discuss policies and find solutions to shared challenges. There is no denying, in short, that Colombia has seen tangible progress both in the economic sector and in democratic governance.

With great prosperity, however, also comes great responsibility, say, regarding matters such as sustainable development and eco-friendly practices. With the rise of the number of local and international businesses operating in Colombia, the country must become even more cautious about the protection of its famously rich ecosystem.

Colombia enjoys an unbelievable wealth in terms of biodiversity, which must be protected during the nation's economic boom. Colombia is a haven to over 50,000 species of flora and fauna, some of which are endemic only to Colombia. Different regions of the country are located in Central American, Mesoamerica, and Latin America, while Colombia has ports with access to the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Caribbean Sea. This diversity of terrain and abundance of water has made Colombia the second most biodiverse land in the world.

Fortunately, with Colombia's rebranding to a regional business hub many attention raising campaigns are in progress to make sure that the nation's economic prosperity in the 2020s will not come at the cost of harming Colombia's unique ecosystem. The central government wants the manufacturers and service providers across the country to have a very good understanding of sustainable development. Bogotá has been a leading eco-friendly force in Latin America at least over the last five years, hosting the 23rd annual conference of the International Sustainable Development Research Society (ISDRS).

Colombia's Universidad de los Andes School of Management (UASM) hosted the high-profile conference, which was held between June14-16, 2017. Various practical themes for sustainable development were explored in the conference including—but not limited to—ecosystem pressures and limits, society, quality of life, and sustainability, and institutions and governance structures for sustainable development.

The fact that Colombia is gathering a large body of knowledge about sustainability by hosting academic conferences such as ISDRS 2017 shows that the decision-makers across the country are aware of the potential risks posed by rapid industrialization and are determined to offset the risks while enjoying the benefits of becoming a regional hub for business and manufacturing.
Investment on renewable energy is one of the pillars of sustainable development. After all, if a country acts as a hub of manuring units and business offices from across the world, it will need plenty of energy to enliven the heavy machinery in factories and light up the cities at night in a manner that befits Bogotá's new status as a regional hub. As we all know by now, that energy cannot come from burning fossil fuels if we want to have sustainable development.

As such, Colombia has been investing on renewable energies for a while. The government is so confident in renewable energies and their potentials that in 2020 it promised to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions by over 50% by 2030. This shift toward renewable energies will be mainly driven by the installation of some 4,000 megawatts of renewable energy generators (such as solar panels and wind turbines), excluding hydroelectric power plants. On top of this, the government began taking action toward achieving these goals even before 2020. Back in 2019, a 1,374-MW hybrid renewable energy plant was put up for auction, which will incorporate both photovoltaic panels and wind turbines. It is expected that the hybrid plant—now under construction—will become ready to feed in electricity to the national grid by 2022. Despite this, however, Colombia needs to add around 300 megawatts of clean energy capacity each year to meet its targets by 2030.

Sustainable development is a far more comprehensive concept than clean energy, entailing everything from how the tourism sector affects the environment to the way agricultural businesses and manufacturers control their water consumption. The palm oil industry is a case in point. Colombia is a longtime exporter of palm oil—a product that consumes huge amounts of water. However, in 2020 a Dutch-Colombian consortium was formed to increase water efficiency in the sector. Given the Dutch side's state-of-the-art knowhow in water management, the efforts are bearing fruit, while water management knowhow is also being localized in Colombia.

All in all, Colombia is one step ahead of many other nations in terms of implementing eco-friendly practices because the country has started taking such measures exactly at the same time as it is witnessing unprecedented development. If the country had developed for years in a non-sustainable manner and wanted to change tack in the space of a few years, a much higher price would be imposed. What is more, Colombia's investment in sustainability will translate into profits in the coming years when the country does not have to grapple with headaches such as pollution, water shortage, and huge costs of shutting down thermoelectric plants and replacing them with renewable energies.